French President Emmanuel Macron joined a video conference today Wednesday with fellow European Union leaders to discuss the situation in Belarus.
Shortly before the meeting, Belarusian presidential challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged EU leaders not to recognise what she called fraudulent election results, saying long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko had lost all legitimacy.
Lukashenko is struggling to contain mass protests and a wave of strikes that pose the biggest challenge to his 26-year-old hold on power. He denies rigging the election to secure a sixth term.
The EU has signalled it will impose sanctions on Belarusian officials it deems responsible for election fraud and a crackdown on demonstrations in which at least two protesters have been killed and thousands detained.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has offered Lukashenko military help if needed, spoke by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel.
He warned Merkel and Macron against foreign meddling in the affairs of Belarus, a close Russian ally that carries Russian energy exports to the West and is viewed by Moscow as a strategic buffer against the EU and NATO.